The release of the graphic novel Who Killed Kurt Cobain was recently announced at the Emerald City Comicon. This book, written by Nicolas Otero, will be published by IDW, and where better to make such an announcement than Seattle, Cobain’s old stomping grounds. The book, slated for release this October, is told from the perspective of Boddah, Cobain’s child hood imaginary friend (real in the sense that Cobain truly did reference this character throughout his life). While it’s clearly a fictional work, it’s also largely based on true events. Upon initially hearing this news I was immediately and enthusiastically excited about it, because this is Kurt Cobain we’re talking about. To this day, well after his death, he’s still a rock god, a timeless, revered legend. Then, after a little bit of time and consideration, I started to get nervous.
When dealing with the deceased as source material for a narrative, the challenge to tell a story becomes a bit more difficult. Writing out and out fiction allows a writer to treat their characters however they see fit, there doesn’t really need to be any reverence or respect for them, because they aren’t real. However, Kurt was not only a real person, he was one of the greatest icons of a generation. Kurt’s music meant the world to people, it still does, he defined a culture, he gave voice to a new brand of angst, frustration, yearning, and turmoil. To write about somebody as culturally significant as Kurt Cobain, Otero must walk a very tight rope indeed. One has to imagine that he must address suicidal thoughts and drug use, without necessarily glamorizing these key aspects of the man. Further, his writing can’t come off as critical, or worse, judgmental, because doing so would immediately enrage the dedicated fan base which is no doubt the target audience for the book. Basically, the only way for this to pan out is for it to be made with sincerity, and respect. It seems obvious to state, but could be a challenge to deliver.
I could spend all day writing about Kurt Cobain, the influence he had, the integrity to remain true to his vision, the demons he wrestled with. Nirvana Nevermind was the very first C.D. I ever bought, and I’d listen to it multiple times a day. I listen to Nirvana still, though admittedly less, but my love for the band hasn’t diminished one iota. There have been movies made, books written, songs played, and theories published all about Kurt. There’s something about him that moved so many people back then, and captivates us still. Now he’ll be represented in Comics, and if it’s done with care, and with love, I think it’ll be a wonderful read. If it’s done to capitalize upon his legacy, well, that’d be vile. I suppose it’ll all come down to presentation. I hope the difference is discernible quickly, and that it’s the better of the two options.
The premise is certainly intriguing. Coming from Boddah, the reader could be offered insights into the depths of Kurt’s psyche, plus it’s a great device to utilize in the comic book format, providing a visual context for this otherwise purely imaginary character. There’s a lot of promise here. For all of my trepidation, I’ll give this book the benefit of the doubt, and assume that it’ll be amazing. The potential is undeniable.
Nicolas Otero is an accomplished artist, but this is his first major foray into comics, and he’s both writing and illustrating the book. It’s ambitious, to say the least. I do love, however, when more traditional artists illustrate comics, it gives the panels depth and soul, and is no doubt a painstakingly long labor of love. The book will be released as a graphic novel in October of 2016, and I’ll be one of the first in line.